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West Fargos' Jordan Shearer advances to the finals with pin in 5:11 over Kalik Battle of Grand Forks Central during the North Dakota Class A State Tournament last weekend in Bismarck. Kevin Cederstrom / Special to the Pioneer
West Fargos' Jordan Shearer advances to the finals with pin in 5:11 over Kalik Battle of Grand Forks Central during the North Dakota Class A State Tournament last weekend in Bismarck. Kevin Cederstrom / Special to the Pioneer

ONE-TWO PUNCH

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Packers Fargo, 58102

Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

They were ranked No. 1 in the state the entire season. Two weeks ago, they set an East Region tournament record for points en route to a third-straight conference title.

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By all accounts, the West Fargo wrestling team was having a season to remember.

And last weekend, they ended it the best way possible.

The Packers dominated at the North Dakota Class A state tournament in Bismarck, garnering both the dual championship and individual team championship.

For coaches and players who have come so close in seasons past only to be thwarted by the slimmest of margins, the sweep was a sigh of relief and confirmation of West Fargo's hard work on and off the mat.

"We're happy. It was a lot of fun," coach Kayle Dangerud said. "The dual championship was a bit nerve wracking because we gave up some matches I thought we'd win, but overall it was a really good weekend."

Dangerud was named North Dakota Class A Coach of the Year, adding to his EDC honor of the same nature.

In the dual portion, West Fargo dominated through the first two rounds by beating Turtle Mountain 58-6, and Williston 48-15. The championship would pit the top two teams in the state that, coincidentally, have a lot of history in the state tournament: Bismarck and West Fargo.

Except for a dual championship in 2010 by West Fargo, the Demons have controlled state for several years.

This time, it was the Packers' turn as they battled back from a deficit to win 35-23. It was a close match, Dangerud said, and while all his wrestlers put forth a solid effort, there was one in particular who helped turn the tide in West Fargo's favor.

Junior Zach Eider pinned Bismarck's Christian Dienert in 2 minutes, 18 seconds in the heavyweight match to garner critical points in the close dual.

"Zach didn't place in individuals, but he absolutely got us back in the dual," Dangerud said. "We weren't in good shape because we dropped two matches. Then he got that pin. He wrestled his heart out."

While the dual title was sweet, an eventual team individual championship made the weekend even sweeter.

The Packers did something remarkable by getting state placers in every category except heavyweight, as well as doubling in three weight categories to give them an incredible 16 placers overall. They racked up 223 points in all, beating out runner-up Bismarck by a comfortable 31.5-point margin.

Jordan Shearer (113), Trevor Kringlie (120) and Preston Lehmann (182) all chalked up individual championships.

Shearer, a freshman, earned his third consecutive state championship. His first two came at 103 pounds. Juniors Kringlie and Lehmann both notched their second state championships in a row.

West Fargo's complete list of individual successes, by weight class, include:

106: Sophomore Reed Cronin (39-11) finished in fourth place, while seventh-grader Jesse Shearer (33-13) took seventh. "They both wrestled well," Dangerud said. "Shearer lost some really close matches that were tight, and he worked really hard. To place in that weight class as a seventh grader is an accomplishment. As for Cronin, he did an unbelievable job, too."

113: Jordan Shearer (38-1) won first in dominant fashion with a 9-0 major decision over Mandan's Curt Zachmeier. Last year, Shearer also took the title with a major-decision victory. "What else can you say? He took care of business," Dangerud said.

120: Kringlie (36-2) picked up his state title with a close 8-6 win over Turtle Mountain's Terry Lavallie. "His match in the finals was closer than we anticipated, but he wrestled really well," Dangerud said. "And he got a huge pin for us in the dual against Bismarck."

126: Sophomore Kollin Kragnes (34-13) placed second and junior Juan Rodriguez (7-5) took sixth. "Kollin made the finals for the first time, and to finish second as a sophomore is pretty impressive," Dangerud said. "And for Rodriguez to come in as an alternate and place, I think that says a lot about our depth."

132: Freshman Weston Dobler (37-12) battled to the bitter end, but a nearfall in the final seconds by Fargo Davies opponent Cole Mehring sealed the 6-3 decision and a runner-up finish for the Packer. West Fargo freshman Christian Ramberg (26-11) also placed, taking eighth.

138: Hampered by an injured ankle he sustained in the quarterfinals, Anjelo Shepherd's bid for another state title never came to be. But the fortitude of the West Fargo sophomore was apparent in the fact that he wrestled in the semifinals on what would later be discovered as a break and not a sprain. Shepherd (40-11) finished sixth after forfeiting the consolation match because of his injury. "He's a tough, tough kid," Dangerud said.

145: Sophomore Kyle Kragnes (23-21) finished fifth with a pin in 4:54 over Grand Forks Central's Erik Jones. "He got the win that sealed our dual victory for us, and took fifth in a pretty tough weight class," Dangerud said. "Kyle stepped up huge."

152: Tanner Kuznia is just 14-26 on the season, but came up big for West Fargo at state. He finished eighth overall, but in doing so took out Ian Johnson, a Bismarck wrestler, in the second round of the consolation bracket. "That was probably the most exciting moment of the tournament," Dangerud said.

160: Junior Shelby Schulz (35-17) took fourth place. "He had a great tournament," Dangerud said.

170: Junior captain Miles Scholl (35-13) nearly made it to the finals, but rebounded to finish fifth with a 7-1 decision over Davies' Zander Mairs. Scholl, a junior, actually beat eventual runner-up Jacob Sargent, of Williston, in the dual semifinals. "It proves he's right up there with the best of them," Dangerud said.

182: Lehmann (46-1) dominated his way to the title, pinning every opponent in a combined time of 5:32 for second-fastest in Class A. He also finished the year with 42 pins, a Class A record. "He wrestled solid and came up with big pins in the duals," Dangerud said.

195: Junior captain Drew Johnson (30-13) made it to the state finals for the first time in his prep career and finished runner-up. "He got a big pin in the semis against (Red River's Drew Brekhus) who he had been close to all season long," Dangerud said.

220: West Fargo's lone senior, Steven Sola, finished his prep career with his first state placing. Sola (29-17) beat the Knights' Seferino Hernandez 3-1 for fifth place. "He went out with a bang," Dangerud said.

In all, the Packers truly dominated the season. In 21 duals, they accumulated 1,116 points, while allowing just 281 against for an average score of 53-13.

While this season may go down in the record books, Dangerud said he's keeping the bar raised high for 2012.

"It's satisfying that we achieved our goals. We knew we had a great team, and we're just really happy with how everything turned out," Dangerud said. "They worked really hard, they did what they had to do.

"But we return 15 state placers next season and 212 points just from points scorers. I think next year, we need to look at solidifying ourselves in terms of national rankings, and I think another state run needs to be the goal again."

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